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Mechanisms and the Evidence Hierarchy

Clarke, B; Gillies, D; Illari, P; Russo, F; Williamson, J; (2014) Mechanisms and the Evidence Hierarchy. Topoi , 33 (2) 339 - 360. 10.1007/s11245-013-9220-9. Green open access

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Evidence-based medicine (EBM) makes use of explicit procedures for grading evidence for causal claims. Normally, these procedures categorise evidence of correlation produced by statistical trials as better evidence for a causal claim than evidence of mechanisms produced by other methods. We argue, in contrast, that evidence of mechanisms needs to be viewed as complementary to, rather than inferior to, evidence of correlation. In this paper we first set out the case for treating evidence of mechanisms alongside evidence of correlation in explicit protocols for evaluating evidence. Next we provide case studies which exemplify the ways in which evidence of mechanisms complements evidence of correlation in practice. Finally, we put forward some general considerations as to how the two sorts of evidence can be more closely integrated by EBM.

Type: Article
Title: Mechanisms and the Evidence Hierarchy
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1007/s11245-013-9220-9
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11245-013-9220-9
Language: English
Additional information: The final publication is available at Springer via http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11245-013-9220-9.
Keywords: Mechanism, Difference-making, Evidence, Evidence of mechanism, Evidence in medicine, Evidence-based medicine
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences > Dept of Science and Technology Studies
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1427791
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